A literary agent is a person who will champion your story. They will make sure it gets into the hands of the right people at a publishing house. But how do you find a literary agent? While these agents are always looking for a great story, it’s important to remember they receive many manuscripts. They can’t represent everyone. Their stack of query letters and synopses is called the “slush pile.” You need to make sure yours finds its way out of it.
How to Find a Literary Agent
The first step is to make sure your manuscript is in the best condition you can make it. Meaning, you have redrafted it, asked friends or a critique group to read it over, and finally given it to a professional editor, such as those at Firstediting.com, to repair any grammar problems, inconsistencies, or structural issues.
Now that your manuscript has been reshaped and is in near-perfect condition, the next step is to write a killer query letter and synopsis. Maybe you’ve been working on these alongside your manuscript, or maybe you will hire a professional to help you. These are critical—and they are usually the only way you will entice an agent to request a sample of your work. Besides, most agents have assistants who read the submissions for them, and only the best queries will get seen by the agent.
Begin your research for the perfect agent. Create a list of those who have worked with books similar to yours, preferably books you admire. Learn as much as you can about each agent. Finding the right person for this role means you will have someone who will fight to get your book into the marketplace, then provide the vital link between you and the publishing house. If you send your work to a weak agent, your manuscript may never find its way to a publishing house.
Once you are satisfied with your list, check the agents’ submission guidelines very carefully. Like publishing houses, agents receive many manuscripts, and each may have specific requirements. The merit of your story is the most important thing. However, don’t let yourself down by sending in your work in the wrong format or full of typos or awkward grammar. Contact the agent by the method they request and then send them only what they have requested.
Make your query letter, synopsis, and sample pages shine like a diamond in the slush pile. You may just find the literary agent you always dreamed of!
Originally posted 1/26/2010 and happily updated 4/22/2017. Thanks for reading!